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Three Strategies To Help Prevent Dental Malpractice Claims

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Mitigating liability is one of the key components of ensuring both patient satisfaction and preventing malpractice claims. As a practicing dentist, there are many ways you can work to lower your risks of lawsuits, which can help lower your business's insurance costs overall. The following three strategies, combined with a comprehensive malpractice liability insurance, can aid you in this goal.

#1: Educate Thoroughly

One of the most important steps you can take is to make sure every patient is fully educated upon their treatment options and overall dental health. Do not assume that the patient has any existing knowledge on the subject. For example, before performing a routine teeth cleaning, make sure the patient understands that there can be some bleeding and that a cleaning will not remove all stains. Some patients have unreasonable expectations for even the simplest of procedures, so your job is to do everything in your power to counteract this issue.

Providing educational pamphlets on the procedures at hand and utilizing short educational videos with patients can help. It's also up to you to be completely honest with every patient, even if the diagnosis is less than positive or if the procedure may not have a successful outcome. Strive for accuracy and always paint a realistic picture for the patient.

#2: Examine and Document

Every examination should be a thorough one. This means performing basic checks for health issues such as oral cancer, periodontal disease, and jaw problems, along with performing a thorough dental health examination on the state of the teeth themselves. Have patients sign waivers for any examinations they want to refuse, such as oral cancer exams that require an additional fee. Keep these signed waivers with the patient's file so you have them ready if a patient tries to say you were negligent in performing an examination and tries to file a claim against you.

Informed consent is also vital, especially for any part of the exam that could lead to health issues later. This includes X-rays, procedures that put stress on the jaw, and any type of minor surgical procedure, such as a filling or extraction. Make sure patients sign informed consent paperwork and keep these in the file, too.

#3: Record Everything

Get in the habit of making notes after each meeting with a patient. The chart is the place to keep these notes, which should include everything you spoke with the patient about. For example, if a patient claims they were never told they had periodontal disease, you can easily see in your notes that you discussed the situation and offered them a referral to a perio specialist at their last visit.

You also want to record any issues you encounter with a patient. Mark down if a patient is ignoring treatment advice, is difficult or belligerent, or is causing any other issues with treatment. If you must terminate a doctor-patient relationship, either because of the above reasons or because of non-payment, do so in writing and keep a copy for your records. Provide the patient with any final treatment recommendations, along with information on obtaining their dental records from your office. This way they can't try to file a claim against you for withholding pertinent health information. For more information, talk to a professional like HMBD Insurance Services.